I just finished the newest Ann Brashares novel, The Last Summer (of You & Me), and it left me kind feeling strange. I can't decide if I enjoyed the book or not, which is especially strange for someone as vocal about books as myself. I absolutely love Brashares Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, and this one just felt too different somehow. Too different from her writing style I mean. It played back and forth from intense, serious book to playful, beach read and I'm just feeling a bit stuck in the middle.
Riley and Alice are sisters and have been friends with Paul for almost their entire lives. The three grow up as playmates each summer on Fire Island, where they live on the beach and are the only best friends each other ever knows. The book begins in the summer when the girls are in their mid-twenties and Paul has stayed away from the beach for the last three years. He arrives back on Fire Island distant, though the same Paul. He and Alice, always having a somewhat different bond than he and Riley, begin a relationship, but hide it from Riley in an attempt to not make her feel as if things have changed between the three of them. When Alice finds out that Riley is very ill, she distances herself from Paul, never including him in the news.
By the end of the story, changes have been made in the threesome, most irreparable. They can never again have their Fire Island innocence, except in their memories. This novel is about incredible bonds, both sisterly and friendships, but it is also about the heartache of loss, both emotional and physical. My mind almost hurt after reading this book, because there was no happiness at all. Even in the loving descriptions of the beach and of the Fire Island atmosphere, there was always a lingering sadness in the tone. As you all know, I like my books tragic, but this was almost mournful. The writing and characterization were both beautiful, so you seem my dilemma in stating whether or not I liked this book. I did, but I didn't, let's leave it at t